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Another Pappas market cafe? Opa!

The big Tarpon Springs restaurant gave way to a smaller concept, whose seventh location has opened near downtown St. Petersburg. More are planned.

By PAUL SWIDER
Published August 13, 2006


ST. PETERSBURG - Reaching beyond its Tarpon Springs headquarters, Louis Pappas Market Cafe has opened a seventh store and is looking for yet another location.

"Louis always wanted to be able to expand the concept," said Gordon Yates, Pappas' partner who runs the new cafe at 1530 Fourth St. N and six others in the Tampa Bay area. "It wasn't feasible on a larger scale."

The market cafes have spun off the now-defunct Louis Pappas Riverside Restaurant the family sold three years ago. Yates said creating multiples of that large restaurant would have been too cumbersome, so Pappas took profits from the sale of the original restaurant and created smaller outlets.

The smaller stores are fed by a central Tarpon Springs commissary, where Pappas still uses his grandfather's recipes for soups and sauces, which he ships to the cafes three times a week. Pappas' grandfather opened the first restaurant in 1925 after serving as an Army chef during World War I and invented a Greek salad that included potato salad.

The newest cafe occupies 3,500 square feet of the American Legion Post No. 14 building. The bland brown exterior gives way to a Mediterranean-style 90-seat dining room for lunch and dinner, including nighttime table service, a departure for the fast-casual cafes, Yates said.

"So far, business has been growing every day," he said of the store that opened at the end of July. "We might not need a grand opening."

The market cafes generally have been growing rapidly since starting in 2004, Yates said. At the first four, business is growing 15 percent a year, which Yates said is unheard of in the restaurant business. The new store joins one in Oldsmar and another in Lakeland that opened this year.

This is the second expansion the Pappas family has gone through since opening the original Riverside Cafe. From Tarpon Springs, the family opened other restaurants but eventually consolidated them back into one in 1975.

For a next location, Yates is shopping in St. Petersburg, possibly in the Tyrone area, but also in Brandon and New Port Richey. The Tarpon Springs commissary can serve as many as 25 restaurants, so Yates and Pappas are looking at an orbit ranging from Fort Myers to Orlando and Ocala. There is also interest from as far as Miami and Atlanta, but those locations would require different arrangements.

"We're looking at other growth options," Yates said. "We've talked about franchising. We've talked about another commissary. We might need another business model."

Paul Swider can be reached at 892-2271 or pswider@sptimes.com or by participating in itsyourtimes.com.